The UK has one of the top five 3D printing sectors worldwide, according to research from HP and AT Kearney.
The study of 30 leading economies places Britain fifth overall for readiness to adopt 3D printing technology, and among the world’s three fastest growing 3D printing markets.
Yet the UK government must focus its efforts in three crucial areas – education, adoption and incentives – if the sector is to stay ahead, said George Brasher, HP’s managing director for the UK and Ireland.
3D printing is one of the powerful technologies driving the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, and is poised to transform the $12 trillion global manufacturing industry. It promises to democratise industrial production, dramatically reducing costs and production cycles.
The study found that the UK is fifth best placed globally to adopt 3D printing and digitise manufacturing – behind the US, Germany, Korea and Japan (in rank order).
Within Europe, Britain came in second – behind only Germany (placed second globally), and ahead of Sweden (eighth), France (ninth), and Italy (twelfth).
And the UK’s standing looks set to improve further, as the country rapidly expands its 3D printing capability. Britain is the world's third fastest nation accelerating its domestic 3D printing market, according to the research. Only South Korea (first) and Italy (second) are progressing more quickly.
The country readiness rankings are based on a detailed analysis of six key dimensions of readiness for 3D printing, including: adoption, demand, trade, people, governance and technology.
Encouragingly, the UK ranks second globally for the necessary trade conditions to boost 3D printing adoption, and third for both technological readiness and for its governance climate. But it lies outside the global top ten for the people dimension (eleventh), due in part to a lack of digital manufacturing skills.
Commenting on the findings, George said: ‘The UK is at a critical juncture in these early days of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We are well placed to lead the world in 3D printing, but there is no room for complacency when preparing the workforce for next generation manufacturing.’